When Jean Grey was transformed into the Phoenix, she dragged the X-Men into an interstellar conflict against the Shi’ar Empire. The X-Men found themselves out of their depth, as they now battled alien monarchs and fleets of starships. The Shi’ar Empire would become closely involved with the X-Men, with the team often needing to leave Earth in order to help their alien allies.
X-Men: Dark Phoenix will feature the Shi’ar Empire as its main antagonists, with the Empress Lilandra acting as the chief villain of the film. It is up to Lilandra to try and stop the emergence of the Dark Phoenix, which would include killing Jean Grey in the process.
We are here today to look at the intergalactic empire that has become an important part of the history of both the X-Men and the Marvel universe as a whole– from the reason why the Shi’ar won’t invade Earth, to their upcoming relevance in the next X-Men movie.
Here are the 15 Things You Didn’t Know About The Shi’ar Empire.
15. The Shi’ar Won’t Invade Earth Because Of Galactus
Aliens are a great choice for an enemy in a superhero comic. They don’t have the moral questions associated with them that human villains do. Your average superhero might not kill a criminal, but an invading alien army is fair game. The Marvel universe has lots of powerful alien races that could theoretically take over Earth with enough ships and bombs that can be dropped from space.
So, why hasn’t an alien empire taken over Earth yet?
The X-Men comics actually came up with a good answer for this question. When Lilandra first travels to Earth, she is being pursued by a Shi’ar ship. The ship cuts off their pursuit when they read their reports about the planet Earth. The Shi’ar are aware that the denizens of Earth have beaten back Galactus on four occasions, which causes them to run away.
Galactus is one of the most feared beings in the universe. Even the might of the Skrull Empire didn’t stop him from devouring their homeworld. The fact that the heroes of Earth have been able to defeat Galactus on multiple occasions is enough to make most alien despots think twice about invading.
14. The Most Powerful Member Of The Shi’ar Empire Is A Superman Knockoff
By far the most powerful member of the Shi’ar Imperial Guard is the alien warrior known as Gladiator. The reason why Gladiator is so powerful is that he is meant to be a homage to Superman. All of the members of the Imperial Guard were intended to be a homage to various members of the Legion of Super-Heroes, so it only makes sense that their leaders are so similar.
Gladiator’s real name is Kallark (which is a mixture of Kal-El and Clark Kent) and he shares the same powers and back story as Superman. He is one of the last survivors of a powerful alien race known as the Strontians, who existed as part of the Shi’ar Empire. Gladiator is sworn to serve the throne of the Shi’ar Empire, which includes committing evil deeds (as he did when he served D’Ken).
As the members of the royal Neramani family are all either dead or outlawed, the throne of the Shi’ar Empire was left empty. The people chose Gladiator to lead them. He has so far been a worthy ruler of the empire, though his position likely won’t last long, as the writers will probably bring Lilandra back when X-Men: Dark Phoenix hits the theaters.
13. The Cult Of The Shi’ar
The first X-Men and Spider-Man movies inspired a new wave of interest in Marvel Comics. The people at Marvel wanted to make the most of this influx of readers, so they created a new line of comics that more closely matched the movies of the time.
The Ultimate universe was an alternate reality version of the Marvel world, which featured new interpretations of classic characters. The first two Ultimate series were X-Men and Spider-Man, though the rest of the famous Marvel cast eventually followed suit.
Ultimate X-Men decided to abandon the idea of the Shi’ar Empire. Instead, the Shi’ar were a cult that claimed descent from alien beings. The Church of Shi’ar Enlightenment worships the Phoenix, which has manifested itself within Jean Grey.
The Shi’ar Chuch is led by Lilandra, who is an incredibly wealthy woman. She offers Charles Xavier a great deal of money in order to be able to test Jean Grey and discover whether she is truly the Phoenix.
12. The Original Ending Of The Dark Phoenix Saga
The Dark Phoenix Saga might be the most famous X-Men storyline of all time. The Phoenix entity within Jean Grey has become corrupted, due to the influence of human emotions.
The Dark Phoenix makes a star go supernova, which wipes out all life on a nearby planet. The X-Men manage to restore Jean’s personality, only for Lilandra to capture the team and sentence her to death.
Professor Xavier uses an ancient Shi’ar right to call for a trial by combat, where the X-Men must battle the Shi’ar Imperial Guard. The story ends with Jean Grey allowing herself to be killed, rather than risking a chance that the Dark Phoenix could return.
This ending was controversial, both among the fans and the writers. There were other endings planned, with one of them actually being drawn, before it was changed. This ending was published in a comic called Phoenix: The Untold Story.
The original ending of the story involved Lilandra uniting all of the telepaths in the Shi’ar Empire in a procedure that involved cutting Jean Grey off from her powers forever, which would have prevented the Dark Phoenix from returning.
11. The Shi’ar People Evolved From Birds
The Shi’ar Empire is actually made up of numerous different races, while the original Shi’ar race has mainly acted as the ruling class for the whole civilization. The Shi’ar race originally evolved from bird creatures. They have retained some avian qualities, such as having hollow bones.
The most prominent member of the Shi’ar race to retain the avian features of their ancestors is Deathbird. She is the oldest of the Neramani siblings, which makes her the rightful heir to the throne of the Shi’ar Empire. Deathbird was passed over and D’Ken was chosen instead. She would soon become an enemy of the state and would wage war against her family.
Deathbird has retained a pair of wings and can grow a set of bird-like claws. It was these features that stopped her from ascending to the throne, as the Shi’ar people see these traits as a sign that someone is unevolved.
10. The Shi’ar Corporation
The success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe was likely the inspiration for the creation of the All-New, All-Different reboot. Marvel decided to repeat what they did with the Ultimate line, except they ended all of the original series as well.
The Marvel universe underwent its first major reboot, which has so far been a controversial decision and one that has had a major effect on sales across the board. It seems that Marvel has finally fallen into the same trap that DC has been stuck in for years and we will be seeing regular reboots in an effort to revive sales.
The new Marvel version of Earth has more advanced technology than that of its predecessor. One reason for this is due to an increase in trade with alien civilizations.
The Shi’ar Empire is at the forefront of this business relationship, as they have created the Shi’ar Solutions Consolidated company. The leader of this corporation is a Shi’ar woman named Frr’dox, who acts as the Supreme Director of Interstellar Operations.
9. The Destruction Of The Age Of Apocalypse
One of the most popular X-Men events of all time was called the Age of Apocalypse. Legion goes back in time to try and kill Magneto before he can threaten Professor Xavier’s dream. He accidentally kills Xavier instead, which creates a reality where Apocalypse has taken over America and Magneto leads a team of X-Men in rebellion against him.
The struggle between the X-Men and Apocalypse is overshadowed by the impending destruction of reality. D’Ken is able to kill Lilandra and become one with the M’Kraan crystal, as the X-Men and the Phoenix aren’t around to stop him. The crystal threatens to destroy all life in the universe and it is up to Bishop to restore reality as it was before, in order to retcon D’Ken’s rise to power.
The idea of all realities being destroyed by a single wayward M’Kraan crystal was one of the inspirations for the Exiles series. This involved a team of characters that had been separated from reality, who formed a group that was intended to prevent cataclysmic events that may affect the multiverse.
8. The Many Emperors
When the Shi’ar Empire was first introduced in the X-Men comics, they were being led by a mad emperor named D’Ken. He wanted to use the power of the M’Kraan crystal to transform himself into a god. It took an alliance between the Phoenix, the X-Men, and the Starjammers to stop D’Ken from wiping out reality.
D’Ken was replaced by Lilandra, who helped restore the Shi’ar Empire to its former glory. She did have her moments of evilness, such as putting Reed Richards on trial for saving the life of Galactus, but Lilandra is regarded as the best of the recent rulers of the empire.
Lilandra was finally deposed by Vulcan, who married Deathbird and took over the Shi’ar Empire. Vulcan had a tumultuous reign, which was filled with opposition from within the empire and pointless wars.
He was finally slain in battle with Black Bolt. Gladiator was chosen to become the new Emperor, but he has mainly been a puppet to the Kree Empire, as the Shi’ar were defeated in an intergalactic war against the Inhumans.
7. The Blackbird Jet Uses Shi’ar Technology
The X-Men might be the biggest jerks in the whole Marvel universe. The reason for this is because they hoard powerful alien technology and don’t share it with others.
Lilandra has given the X-Men numerous advanced pieces of Shi’ar technology, which has been used in the Danger Room and in the mansion’s medical lab. Shi’ar technology was instrumental in helping the X-Men to treat the Legacy Virus. However, Charles Xavier hoards all of this amazing technology for himself.
One of the biggest Shi’ar contributions to the X-Men is their additions to the Blackbird Jet. The Blackbird gained a fully functional cloaking device, which allowed it to become invisible on command.
The Blackbird also has a device that allows telepaths to communicate with Cerebro and use its powers at a distance. The Shi’ar enhancements also allow the Blackbird to become an interstellar vehicle, which the X-Men have used whenever they needed to attack Asteroid M.
6. The Human/Shi’ar Hybrid Offspring Can Be Mutants
It is possible for members of the Shi’ar race to breed with humans and create hybrid offspring. This is a common trope in science fiction series, especially when the aliens resemble humans. The chances of humans being able to breed with alien life forms are minuscule in real life, though most writers tend to ignore this.
There have been several human/Shi’ar hybrids in the Marvel universe and the results of their mixed heritage often give them enhanced physical abilities. It is possible for these hybrid beings to possess super powers, as their human side can manifest mutant abilities.
The most famous example of this is Adam X-Treme, who is a very ’90s character in everything from his name to his appearance. Adam X-Treme is the illegitimate son of D’Ken and a human woman, who was intended to rule the Shi’ar Empire.
It was suggested that Adam X-Treme was actually the third Summers brother and that his mother would be revealed to be Katherine Summers, who had been imprisoned and taken as a consort by D’Ken. These plans were abandoned and Gabriel Summers was revealed to be the true third Summers brother instead.
5. The Juggernaut Quote
Streaming video was limited in the days before YouTube. This was even worse in the pre-broadband days, where a five-minute video could take forty minutes to load (assuming it didn’t crash or your Internet didn’t cut out). As such, the early Internet comedy videos usually had terrible audio and visual quality, as they needed to be compressed as much as possible in order to make it easier to download.
This brings us to the infamous “I’m the Juggernaut B—h!” video. This was a particularly unfunny clip where people performed their own dub of the episode of the X-Men cartoon where Juggernaut tries to kidnap Lilandra. This was actually one of the best episodes of the X-Men cartoon.
The X-Men movies actually referenced this video, as the cockney version of the Juggernaut quoted the famous line in X-Men: Last Stand.
4. Lilandra Saved The Day In The Final Episode Of The X-Men Cartoon
The X-Men cartoon from the ’90s is regarded as the definitive adaptation of the comics by many fans. The series introduced many people to the comics, whose success led to the creation of the movies. There have been a few more X-Men cartoons since then, though none of them have stacked up to the original.
The final episode of the X-Men cartoon is called “Graduation Day”. Professor Xavier is attacked during an assassination attempt and is on his death bed. The only way to save his life is to take him to the Shi’ar Empire, where they could use advanced technology to save him.
The X-Men have to team up with Magneto, as they need his powers to help contact Lilandra. Magneto abandons his cause and comes to the aid of his dying friend. They succeed in contacting Lilandra and she comes to Earth.
She promises to save Xavier’s life, though he will have to remain in the Shi’ar Empire. After saying his goodbyes, Xavier departs and leaves the X-Men to continue fulfilling his dream, with the possible addition of Magneto to their group.
3. The Original Shi’ar Crew Were A Homage To Captain Kirk & The Enterprise
Lilandra debuted in Uncanny X-Men #105. She is fleeing from D’Ken’s forces, as he wants to make sure that there is no one to stop his plan for the M’Kraan crystal. Lilandra makes her way to Earth, in order to seek out the Phoenix, as she is the only who possesses the power to affect the M’Kraan crystal.
Lilandra is being pursued by a Shi’ar warship that is trying to blast her vessel. The Shi’ar ship breaks off when they discover that the people of Earth have chased off Galactus on multiple occasions.
The designs for the Shi’ar Empire were likely still being developed at this point. This might be why the original crew that we see are just one big homage to Captain Kirk and the crew of Star Trek‘s Enterprise.
The uniforms are similar to the ones worn by Starfleet, which includes the color scheme. The crew is positioned in a similar manner to that of the bridge staff of the Enterprise. The Captain is also pulling a very Shatner-esque pose when we first see him. One of the bridge crew warns the Captain about “breaking the Prime Directive” before they fire a bunch of Photon torpedoes. Lilandra also uses a transporter in the same issue.
2. Shi’ar/Human Hybrids Have Been Members Of The X-Men
The members of the X-Men have generally been mutants, though that isn’t a prerequisite for joining the team. There have been members of the X-Men who were robots, mages, enhanced humans, and aliens, to name but a few. The X-Men have also had some human/Shi’ar hybrids on the team, though they weren’t aware of their heritage at first.
Davis and Heather Cameron are siblings from Australia who developed surfing-themed powers and were allowed to join the X-Men. Davis became known as Slipstream, as he can create a teleportation tunnel that he surfs through on a board.
Heather became known as Lifeguard and gained an enhanced version of Spider-Sense, which allowed her to sense danger approaching. She also possessed the ability to transform her body in whatever way the situation required.
1. Lilandra Is Going To Be The Villain In The Next X-Men Movie
Lilandra has been one of the X-Men’s staunchest allies for decades now. They helped her stop D’Ken and restored peace to the M’Kraan crystal. Lilandra owed her position to the X-Men, yet this didn’t stop her from coming into the conflict with the team when the Dark Phoenix arose within Jean Grey’s mind. Lilandra has a responsibility to the universe as a whole, which meant that it was up to her to arrange the death of Jean Grey.
It has been revealed that Jessica Chastain has been cast as Lilandra in the upcoming X-Men: Dark Phoenix film. She will be one of the chief villains of the movie, as Lilandra will want to stop the Dark Phoenix from becoming strong enough to threaten the Shi’ar Empire.
This is a legitimate concern, as the Dark Phoenix is able to wipe out a solar system with ease. Lilandra might be the real hero of the film, especially if Sansa’s actress does another bad American accent.
The fact that Lilandra is appearing in an upcoming X-Men movie means that her resurrection in the comics is also likely to happen. Gladiator has been keeping the seat warm for a while now, but it’s only a matter of time before the true Empress of the Shi’ar Empire returns to reclaim her position.
Can you think of any other interesting facts about the X-Men‘s Shi’ar Empire? Let us know in the comment section!
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